CAMPAIGNERS will pitch 100 tents on Southend beaches next month in protest at the way rough sleepers are treated.

The Warrior Square Soup Kitchen, which feeds the homeless three times a week in the town, is behind a bid to shame Southend Council into doing more and says it will donate all the tents to rough sleepers after the protest.

The move comes after homeless people were spotted camping on Southend beaches and cliffs and it follows a call from Rochford and Southend East MP James Duddridge for the homeless to be moved on, after labelling them “homeless campers holidaying by the sea”.

The animosity towards town’s rough sleepers has prompted the protest.

Jo Bates from the soup kitchen said: “We are confident we will have at least 100 people sleeping in tents on the beach and we will then give them to the homeless. Unless the council is going to give these people homes the problem is not going to go away.

“Not all of the homeless are drunks or drunk addicts.

“They can’t get benefits because they don’t have homes and they can’t get homes as they don’t have benefits. Something has to be done to help them.

These are human beings and have rights too.

“There is no law to stop people sleeping on the beach. Just because they are homeless doesn’t mean they are any less of a person."

David Norman, councillor responsible for housing, said: “I am concerned about the safety of anyone sleeping or camping outside, or on the beach and close to water.

“It is important for those involved this is resolved as quickly as it can be. With that in mind I would absolutely discourage any protesters from camping on the beach. A supportive and proactive approach is being taken and we are looking at each situation on a case-by-case basis.

“According to Government legislation, it would not be appropriate to give housing priority to people who do not have a connection to Southend.

“In order to qualify for council housing, it is necessary to have lived in Southend for at least three years.”

Mr Norman said everyone had the right to protest, but the authority had a good record of helping people get a roof over their heads.

He said: “I cannot disagree with the spirit of highlighting the difficulties faced by rough sleepers.

I have to say we have a good record and fully meet our legal responsibilities to homeless households.

“Unfortunately national legislation dictates many single people do not qualify for that level of help.

“However, we do advise and assist them as much as we can and direct them to our partners such as Harp who can provide practical help.

“We are one of very few councils who do not use B&Bs to house homeless families and there are a good range of facilities available for single people too.”